I had a little struggle with myself, and I think I must have wiped some amounts of the cold perspiration from my absurd head before I was able to make an answer. It may be seen what a coward I was, and how I feared to begin again that search for employment. At last, however, I was in self-control, so that I might speak without being afraid that my voice would shake.
“I am sorry,” I said. “It seemed to me that my deception would not cause any harm, and that I might be useful in spite of it — enough to earn my living. It was on account of my being very poor; and there are two little children I must take care of. — Well, at least, it is over now. I have had great shame, but I must not have greater.”
“What do you mean?” he asked me rather sharply.
“I will leave immediately,” I said, going to the door. “Since I am no more than a joke, I can be of no service to your father or to you; but you must not think that I am so unreasonable as to be angry with you. A man whom you have beheld reduced to what I was, at the Cafe’ de la Paix, is surely a joke to the whole world! I will write to your father before I leave the hotel and explain that I feel myself unqualified—”
“You’re going to write to him why you give it up!” he exclaimed.
“I shall make no report of espionage,” I answered, with, perhaps, some bitterness, “and I will leave the letter for you to read and to send, of yourself. It shall only tell him that as a man of honour I cannot keep a position for which I have no qualification.”
I was going to open the door, bidding him adieu, when he called out to me.
“Look here!” he said, and he jumped out of bed in his pajamas and came quickly, and held out his hand. “Look here, Ansolini, don’t take it that way. I know you’ve had pretty hard times, and if you’ll stay, I’ll get good. I’ll go to the Louvre with you this afternoon; we’ll dine at one of the Duval restaurants, and go to that new religious tragedy afterwards. If you like, we’ll leave Paris to-morrow. There’s a little too much movement here, maybe. For God’s sake, let your hair grow, and we’ll go down to Italy and study bones and ruins and delight the aged parent! — It’s all right, isn’t it?”
I shook the hand of that kind Poor Jr. with a feeling in my heart that kept me from saying how greatly I thanked him—and I was sure that I could do anything for him in the world!
Three days later saw us on the pretty waters of Lake Leman, in the bright weather when Mont Blanc heaves his great bare shoulders of ice miles into the blue sky, with no mist-cloak about him.